Remembering where we were when we heard

Kennedy death leaves many with a range of emotions

“Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”

Everyone who’s in their mid-50s or older immediately knows the answer to that question.

Just as people a generation earlier remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard Pearl Harbor had been bombed, those of my generation – and older – remember Kennedy’s death. Those who came after us will always remember the day the Twin Towers went down.

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was 6 years old and in first grade. We’d been out for recess and, on the way back to class, someone said the president had been shot.

I don’t remember whether our teacher talked about the death, but I don’t think she did. Maybe those in some of the upper classrooms – the fifth- and sixth-graders – watched news coverage on TV or talked about the shooting.

We were too young.

At home, we watched the news on our black-and-white console TV. My parents weren’t fans of Kennedy, but I don’t recall anything derogatory being said about him when he died.

I have this vague recollection of watching the funeral on TV as it happened, which probably would have meant school was canceled, but I can’t swear to that. Maybe we watched evening news coverage of the event.

The intervening years have clouded some of the memories, as have documentaries and news shows about the death.

Perhaps I was right on the cusp of those who remember and those who are too young to remember.

As the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death approached, I contacted a number of local residents for their recollections. I expected short responses along the lines of “I was in fourth grade” or “I was 16 years old.”

I didn’t expect the depth of responses nor the range of emotions people recalled having – from fear to sadness and confusion to anger. (The stories appeared in our Sunday paper.)

This Friday marks a half-century since the events in Dallas, Texas.

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember in your own way. If you’re not, please try to understand the flood of emotions that may surface in those who do remember.

Dee Camp is a reporter at The Chronicle. She can be reached via email at


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